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LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO


Landmark Records 1991
LCD 1531-2
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LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO

  1. Here I'll Stay
  2. Guys and Dolls
  3. I Didn't Know About You
  4. Let's Eat Home
  5. Photographs (Me in Love with You)
  6. Some People
  7. This Time the Dream's On Me
  8. Love is a Necessary Evil
  9. You're Nearer
  10. Just One of Those Things
  11. Introducing the band
  12. That Old Feeling
  13. Soon
  14. Along With Me
  15. Will You Still Be Mine
  16. Lost in the stars

LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO

wesla whitfield: vocals
mike greensill: piano / arranger
Dean Reilly: bass

orrin keepnews: producer







LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO

"This wonderful singer thrills me when I Hear her."
Tony Bennett


"I'm an old fan of Wesla Whitfield's. Her natural sound and her way with a lyric moved me from the very start. Now more than ever the popular music world needs a singer like Wesla."
Bobby Short

"One of my favorite singers. I look forward to each new recording. She's wonderful".
Margaret Whiting


"I admire the way Wesla sings. She is one of the great interpreters of American popular song - and I don't say that lightly."
Michael Feinstein


Let's begin with some background on these unequi-vocal testimonials from some of the most admired and widely appreciated of Wesla Whitfield's peers. Specifically, what we have here is a very extreme case of an artist with not only the approval of her colleagues, but something quite close to adoration.

From the record company's point of view, admittedly one reason we sought these endorsements was to impress people who unfortunately might be unfamiliar with Wesla but would pay attention to the opinions of front-runners like these. And on the other hand, even a long-time Whitfield fan can either gain added confidence or simply take pleasure from the knowledge that performers who ought to know their own field best fully share your enthusiasm. We obtained these results quite easily (despite the fact that Bobby Short was in France and Margaret Whiting in Alaska at the time we were looking for them), just by making these four aware of the opportunity to have their feelings about Wesla made public. They were the first we asked because for various reasons they seemed most suitable, we asked only once; whereupon all four swiftly responded. So there seemed no reason to seek further.

As for the recording itself, the singer's second Landmark project marks the first time she has been captured on tape in one of her natural habitats. San Francisco is very much Wesla's city of choice, despite (as she notes at the very start here) having been somewhat-reliably warned that it present a problem. And the Plush Room in the York Hotel has often served as her home base, a comfortable, relatively intimate room with good acoustics and sight-lines, well suited to establishing a close rapport between artist and listeners, a room she is at ease in and where here audience is apt to feel at ease with her.

In my experience, some performers actually work to better advantage in the less emotional, technically fully-controlled recording studio setting; others reach peaks on the job that can make you feel drastically unhappy that you're not recording at that moment, It was my guess that Wesla would shine in an at-work setting; the initial problem was to convince her. It's not hard to understand an artist's hesitance: so many things can go momentarily wrong, and restarting a number or repeating the last half-chorus just isn't appropriate behavior in front of a paying audience. And a cold house or a half-empty late show can certainly dampen your creative fires. In addition, Wesla had a unique concern: knowing that her introductions to songs are often quite free and far-ranging, she insisted on veto power over anything spoken (but ended up pleased with virtually everything she had to say).

These results make it clear that my guess was a good one. On three spring evenings in 1991, Wesla sang at, for, and with a series of thoroughly captivated audiences, while the tape machines rolled to create this vivid and abundant collection. The repertoire is typical Whitfield, which includes a few genuinely obscure treasures, some lesser-known works of major American composers, and a couple of reinterpretations of songs you might have thought you were tired of. Framing it all are two of the most moving Kurt Weill numbers: the opening Here I'll Stay, and, as an encore, the majestic Lost in the Stars. Between them is Gershwin and Harold Arlen, Rodgers-and-Hart and Duke Ellington and Alec Wilder, there's a Cole Porter (as Wesla explains, that's a necessity) and the very contemporary satirist, Dave Frishberg.

Properly empathetic accompaniment is a crucial element, and Ms. Whitfield is literally in excellent hands. In addition to the impeccable bassist, Dean Reilly, she has the invaluable support of Mike Greensill, who on several numbers is also a highly effective piano soloist, and additionally is Wesla's musical director and her husband.

--Orrin Keepnews

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